She Was Raped

Sheila was raped yesterday.

While Sheila was lying in her scavenged bed in an abandoned apartment a man came in through the door that no longer has a lock and he raped her.

Sheila is already approved for housing. She has already completed the maze of information gathering, verification and documentation.  She was days away from safe, decent housing and she was raped.

Sheila was raped.  Brutally. Forcibly. Powerfully.  Raped.

Conditions in which these women live and are victimized in.

After the sexual assault she was threatened with being physically assaulted if she told anyone.

While I hesitate being so repetitive and graphic for a blog, rape is a graphic, repetitive, life-altering fact of life for many of the women  we come to know who are living in the abandoned buildings and on the streets of New Orleans.

Sheila’s  neighbor, Precious – who was living in an abandoned house around the corner – told her housing specialist that she was so happy to finally have a safe place to sleep on Winter nights. Precious had been going to a friend’s apartment on the most bitterly cold nights and her ‘friend’ always demanded sex in return for the few hours Precious stayed there.

Magdalena disappeared. We have yet to find Magdalena again after we originally found her sleeping on the back porch of another abandoned building.  She identified a man who sexually assaulted her on a regular basis, but refused to leave with us.  When we repeatedly returned to try to help her find safe housing, she was gone.

Diagnosed decades ago with schizophrenia, Margaret has been released from hospital after hospital back to the streets. Out of medications and sleeping in an abandoned building with a man who is also mentally unstable, Margaret pulls my sleeve and tells me he exposes himself to her each night and tries to force her to have sex.

Margaret does not want to leave with us that night, but moves into another abandoned building the next day.  The day Margaret’s application for housing is approved she is arrested on an outstanding warrant and brought to the forensic mental hospital.

  • Is it because she has been assaulted so many times that Daisy roars like a lioness and lunges out of the cardboard box she sleeps in as we approach?
  • Is it because she has been violated so many times that Miss Sage furiously wheels her shopping cart like a weapon and rants and raves in traffic?
  • And what degradation has mentally ill Denise had to suffer in the long months she lived in the abandoned school?

This may be my least linear blog posting, but I am furious. I am angry. I am ranting because Sheila, Precious, Magdalena, Margaret, Daisy, Ms. Sage and Denise can’t. They are too busy trying to survive.

I am venting my rage on this blog because Sheila, Precious, Magdalena, Margaret, Daisy, Ms. Sage and Denise can’t.  But their stories need to be known.


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  • Erin Jackson

    May 18, 2010 10:54 pm

    This is so so awful!

  • Jalin Jounee

    May 19, 2010 11:26 am

    This post brought me to tears! There must be something we can do to prevent this from happening. I could not stop thinking about this last night when I read this.

  • Eva Villavaso

    May 23, 2010 2:56 pm

    This post of this horrible rape is posted 5/18/2010. I pray that this is an old posting. Perhaps it is not. Before I read the blogs, I read of Ms. Kagels testimony and gratitude for the Senator and the other 60 non profits working to house the homeless. I also read of the propect of receiving 73 million dollars to continue this effort.
    I am baffled because my recentl personal experience in trying to get Unity’s assistance in getting housing for the employee who cares for my mother. The brick wall went up. I also felt I had breached some protocal by attempting to intervene for my friend. This is happening now, 2010. I am sick of reading of the moneies doled out to non profits, and the organizationl charts of how many people are paid before help reaches those in need. Non profits don’t work unless you are tenacious and go to the head of the organization. Non profits are also known to have little if any oversight. With that I ASSUME they do not want attention to how they really operate. I worked for 40 years for a large private telecommunications company. Charitable contributions were automatically deducted from my salary. 40 years, and then laid off. So now I call on those agencies I have contributed to all those years for myself and others. I am aware of this litigious society I can only advocate for self.

  • Martha Kegel

    June 6, 2010 2:48 pm

    Dear Ms. Villavaso, I just saw your post. I encourage you to email Cynthia Mitchell, our director of intake, at cmitchell@unitygno.org to describe in more detail your friend’s housing situation so that we can see if he or she meets the criteria for any housing programs we know about. Thank you for caring about your friend and I can imagine your frustration — there is a horrendous affordable housing crisis in New Orleans with far, far more people in desperate need than there are resources to help them, and we are forced to do triage with the housing resources we have, so that people who are literally homeless (on the streets or in abandoned buildings or homeless shelters as substantiated by outreach workers) and who have disabilities and illnesses of such severity that they are likely to die soon if not given housing get priority over everyone else. The $73 million in rent vouchers that UNITY fought for went to the state to pay for 5 years of rent subsidy for 3025 disabled extremely low income persons across 20-some parishes in south Louisiana. — Martha Kegel

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